Intellectual disabilities’ youth demand change – Capital Radio Malawi
23 May, 2024

Intellectual disabilities’ youth demand change

Mauluka: We need to change the way we think

Young people with intellectual disabilities have called on the government and various stakeholders to work together through formulation and promotion of policies as well as raising awareness to end challenges they continue facing due to their disabilities.

They made the call in Lilongwe during a Unified Champion Schools National Youth Summit organized by Special Olympics Malawi.

The summit held under the theme ‘Building a Unified Generation,’ brought together athletes, their partners and coaches from all districts in the country.

Through the summit, young people with intellectual disabilities shared experiences they face in their respective areas and made recommendations on what Malawi must do to create an inclusive environment in line with the theme.

Speaking during a panel discussion, one of the athletes Lot Dimba shared that as athletes they continue facing various challenges in schools and play grounds due to their disabilities.

“We still face bullying and teasing in schools. We are given different names and called crazy because of the way we look. We need to stop this because it brings negative perceptions among people with intellectual disabilities and they end up thinking that they cannot do anything. We want to spread inclusion, every person was born for a purpose and they need encouragement to fulfil their potential,” he said.

Dimba continued by bemoaning the lack of teachers with special skills on how to treat persons with intellectual disabilities disclosing that in most cases their needs in class are disregarded despite some teachers being aware they are different in grabbing information.

On her part, Susan Nyahuwa, a third-year student pursuing Bachelors of Arts in Humanities at the University of Malawi (UNIMA) echoed Dimba’s sentiments adding that in most cases, persons with intellectual disabilities continue being denied opportunities both in schools and job markets.

Sharing her experience, Nyahuwa said while she now remains with a year to finish her tertiary education, the journey has not been easy.

“I faced a lot of challenges when I was starting at UNIMA. Friends were sidelining me because they were seeing a disabled person in me,” Nyahuwa narrated her story.

Both Dimba and Nyahuwa recommended for formulation of disability-friendly policies, raising awareness, intensification of specialized training for teachers, introduction of inclusive extra-curricular activities in schools, and training of community and family members to deal with the prevailing challenges.

Reacting to the concerns raised, Special Olympics national director Enid Mauluka said that it is disheartening that at this level people are still discriminating people with disabilities.

“Mindset change is a very big issue. We need to change the way we think, once we start accepting people with disabilities, accepting who they are, and treating them the same way we treat other people, even themselves they will start believing in themselves,” she said.

While expressing her concerns from the outcry, deputy director of Inclusive Education in the ministry of education Lucy Magagula reiterated government’s commitment in ensuring inclusive programming so that no one is left behind.

She said; “The government has already adopted good approaches to deal with some of the challenges. Among the interventions include revising the curriculum for Teacher Training Centres (TTCs), providing resources, making sure schools have special needs coordinators, encouraging extra-curricular activities, and the development of an Inclusive Education Policy.

“With some of these interventions in place, the number of young people with disabilities including those with intellectual disabilities in schools is growing.”

Magagula said that currently, there are over 193,000 learners with disabilities in primary schools, over 11,000 in secondary schools, and over 250 of them in tertiary institutions.

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